2 min read

How to Run a Simple Referendum Vote


We’ve all heard the term election, and it’s probably a word used more often than not in member-based organizations or those with voting board members.

On elections, an overview

Usually, an election consists of voters voting to fill specific positions and are popular among unions, governing bodies, schools and universities.

Beyond their use for securing candidacy, elections are also integral for allowing voters to sound off on particular issues.

In any organization, elections are typically set up by the administrator or election manager based on the questions they need to ask or the positions they need to fill.

But what happens when you make a decision based on an election that not everyone is happy about?

Here’s where the single-issue ballot, or referendum, comes in.


Elections vs. Referendums

The term referendum is often used in the same breath as election, however, elections and referendums work very differently.

A referendum usually requires a set number of signatures before voters are allowed to either vote to accept or reject a question or issue. You may want to run a referendum vote if you:

  • Need to confirm or reject a previous election decision
  • Want to present both sides of an argument
  • Only have one issue or proposal to repeal


Why a referendum?

A referendum vote is a simple way to address a debated issue.

The referendum process will differ for each organization and depend on the number of voters and the time it takes to obtain signatures.

In general, organizations who want to try a single-issue ballot should take into consideration this process:



If there is an issue about a previous decision as a result of an election, you can start the referendum process by preparing a petition.

The purpose of this petition is to gain enough signatures to validate the need for a referendum.



Formally, a petition should be designed and printed according to your organization’s rules.

However, if this is the first time you are running a referendum, you can choose to either print your petition or make a digital version.



Now comes the time to circulate your petition throughout your organization in an effort to get signatures.

It’s important that your referendum is visible, accessible, and addresses not only the reasons for the referendum - but also the potential outcome.



If you receive enough signatures to continue with the referendum process, you can begin to set up your referendum using a single-issue ballot.

The single-issue ballot will list the arguments for and against the debated issue and allow the voters to choose if they accept or reject the decision.


Why referendums?

Referendums are a convenient and fair way to address an ordinance or proposal before it goes into effect.

Not everyone will be happy about a decision or outcome in an election, but this gives them another chance at sharing their opinion about it.

As part of your organization’s election policy, your new referendum process should be added to ensure voting standards in the future.

You can always use traditional methods of voting, such as paper ballots, to carry out your referendum.

However, we recommend that you opt for a secure, accessible method and use a trusted online voting platform.

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